Liverpool’s Robert Vincent, like New Zealand’s Donna Dean, is an artist not from the U.S. or Canada but capable of interpreting what Americana is – brilliantly. Robert’s 3rd LP the 54-minute – In This Town You’re Owned, (Thirty Tigers Records – drops Feb 14) was produced by Ethan Johns, acclaimed for work with Paul McCartney.
What I find of interest in the award-winning Mr. Vincent is his songwriting. It’s steeped in influences that may or may not have played a direct role in his development. I taste an ounce of John Prine in “This Town,” — actually about Liverpool but doesn’t have to be.
It’s about a place, where Robert grew up – what’s become of it – how the outside world affects it. It’s not dramatic like a Bruce Springsteen song, it doesn’t get too political or damning – it just talks about where one comes from as a warm fiddle floats above the chimney pot grime, honking horns, laundry that once hung out on a line, & the faces in pubs & parks. It’s somewhat a cousin to English singer James Maddock’s “My Old Neighborhood.”
Channeling Dave Edmunds sprinkled with a Traveling Wilbury’s acoustic guitar is “My Neighbors Ghost.” An exceptional vintage rock track with retro rich past storytelling.
“The Kids Don’t Dig God Anymore,” is a potent slow track punctuated by drums, sawing violins over the fine wood, with a rosined-up bow. 1/3 John Prine, 1/3 Randy Newman & 1/3 Leonard Cohen. Many people may have lost their spirituality, & faith — that may be the simple reason we are where we are today. Not politics – but just the lack of humanity, compassion, patience & brotherhood.
I dare a big, famous singer to cover this song & perform it on network television.
Mr. Vincent’s warmth, somewhat rusty vocal style – not quite Tom Waits, or John Prine in tone but he has a cross between John Mellencamp-Alejandro Escovedo on the accordion melodic “The Ending,” that shows strength in structure with a rich Spanish, Tex-Mex arrangement. “Conundrum” follows with banjo, clever lyrics, gentle backup vocalists & his steady inspiring vocals. It’s not just lyrics but lessons. It’s a well-written song that leaves behind its impression, brief as it may be.
Surprisingly, there’s a little of the late Gerry Rafferty in “I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now.” A riveting song. Vincent is right when he says, “music has become quite stale & lifeless.” It’s almost cookie-cutter, lacks credible creativity. It’s fruit & vegetables — limited shelf life. Some songs should be written with an ear for longevity. Robert’s are.
The music is not confrontational but with the exceptional playing of his 6-piece band (names not available from PR or CD insert). Richard at times if listened to closely has just enough of that Nick Drake beauty, rural Townes Van Zandt, & spirituality (in “If You Were You”) of a Steve Earle. Available at Discogs.